COVID-19: Vaccine information and additional resources | Medicaid: The program is changing and you must take steps to keep your UNC Health providers

Endobronchial Ultrasound

Early diagnosis of lung disease is key to improving your outcome, and Rex Pulmonary Specialists offers the latest and most effective diagnostic procedures to accomplish just that. Our physicians are able to perform endobronchial ultrasound, which is used to help diagnose and stage lung cancer, as well as diagnose infections and inflammatory diseases in the chest—all without the need for more invasive or traditional surgical procedures.

What is endobronchial ultrasound?

This special form of ultrasound allows physicians to collect tissue or fluid samples from lymph nodes near the trachea and other structures in the area between the lungs without creating incisions. It’s typically performed as an outpatient procedure and under moderate sedation or anesthesia.

A special scope equipped with a small ultrasound processor is inserted into the mouth and guided down the windpipe to the lungs. Once in position, your physician uses ultrasound imaging to find and remove samples of tissue to biopsy with a special device called an aspiration needle.

Endobronchial ultrasound vs. bronchoscopy

Endobronchial ultrasound is a lot like traditional bronchoscopy (link to bronchoscopy page), although the form of anesthesia may differ. To obtain the best biopsy results, your physician may opt for general anesthesia with endobronchial ultrasound, which results in a deeper sleep and limits your movement during the procedure.

Endobronchial ultrasound also takes more time. While traditional bronchoscopy takes about 30 minutes, endobronchial ultrasound lasts about an hour because a pathologist is evaluating tissue samples while you are undergoing the procedure. Pre- and postoperative evaluation periods can take four hours or more with endobronchial ultrasound.

Are there risks involved with endobronchial ultrasound?

The majority of patients go home the same day and do not experience complications. Risks associated with endobronchial ultrasound include bleeding from biopsy areas, infection, heart problems (such as abnormal heart rhythms and heat attack in patients with heart disease), fever, trouble breathing, collapsed lung and sore throat. (It’s important to note that many of these risks are rare.) General anesthesia may cause side effects, such as blood pressure changes, nausea and vomiting, and slowed heart rate.
Because of these risk factors, patients who have bleeding problems or heart issues may not be candidates for endobronchial ultrasound. Talk with your physician about the diagnostic procedures that are right for you.

Before the test

The procedure is similar to traditional bronchoscopy. See bronchoscopy section for more information. The largest difference is that in many circumstances, your physician my elect to use general anesthesia (where you are under a deeper sleep and breathe with the assistance of a breathing machine). The reason for this is to prevent sudden movements from limiting the quality of samples taken.